This discussion came up recently in my ‘Highly Sensitive Professionals’ Facebook group, because those who are highly sensitive also tend to be perfectionists. So I was inspired to write about it for this week’s tip.
There are times when perfectionism might be a good thing – for example, if I’m about to have surgery, I’d really like it if the surgeon operating on me was something of a perfectionist. If someone is doing work for me, I like them to have perfectionist tendencies because I want them to do a really good job for me. If you do work that requires a lot of fine, intricate detail, then being a perfectionist is a good thing.
But being a perfectionist can definitely get in the way and even be very unhealthy. For example, perfectionists often don’t just have high standards, they can have unrealistic expectations and standards.
According to research, perfectionist tendencies have been linked to things like:
- Depression and anxiety
- Social anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Eating disorders, and much more
So perhaps there is a healthy version of perfectionism, which is about having high standards, motivation and discipline and wanting to a good job, and an unhealthy version, which is when your best never seems good enough and everything seems to frustrate you.
Also, you might need to be more of a perfectionist in your work, but perhaps it’s not serving you to be a perfectionist in other areas of your life.
I think the key is to notice where and how it serves you, and where it doesn’t. Also to recognize that being hyper-critical of yourself and everything you do is not serving you either.
I began to notice that for me, my perfectionist tendencies were mostly not serving me. So I now acknowledge that I’m a recovering perfectionist. I still have high standards, and I always like to do a good job, but I no longer beat myself up if I make a mistake, I just put it right to the best of my ability and move on. I am also letting go of the constant self-criticism (always a work in progress).
Action Step: identify where and how your perfectionism shows up and how it serves you. Do you have high standards and like to do a good job or are your standards often unrealistically high and are you hyper-critical of yourself?
If you need to let go of some of that perfectionism, try the following affirmation:
“I release the need to be critical of myself. I do my best and that’s good enough.”
P.S. If you are highly sensitive, it's likely that you're also a perfectionist. Check out our Highly Sensitive Professionals Facebook Group - we'd love to have you join us.